Khashoggi widow sues Israeli spyware company over husband’s murder

The federal civil lawsuit claims the company spyware installed on her phone helped Saudi agents find and kill her husband in 2018.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The widow of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has sued the Israeli spyware company NSO Group in a U.S. federal court for allegedly having a hand in the assassination of her husband in 2018.

In the lawsuit Hanan Elatr Khashoggi filed last week in Virginia against NSO and its parent company Q Cyber Technologies, Ltd., she charged the defendants with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, as well as other violations.

Specifically, it alleges that NSO had “intentionally targeted” her phones and “caused her immense harm, both through the tragic loss of her husband and through her own loss of safety, privacy, and autonomy.”

This was allegedly accomplished through the secret installation of its Pegasus spyware on one of her cellphones in April 2018, which allowed Saudi Arabian agents to track her then-fiancé and future husband, a journalist who frequently criticized the Saudi regime.

That December, Khashoggi was lured to Riyadh’s embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was murdered and his body dismembered.

Much of the lawsuit relies on reports by The Washington Post and other news media, which in 2021 revealed alleged proof of the phone invasion by research groups that work to discover cyberespionage. Elatr had been taken in by UAE intelligence that April for hours of questioning about her Khashoggi, and they found that someone had downloaded the spyware to her phone while she was in custody.

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As she was a stewardess based in Dubai and he was in Washington, they frequently discussed how to meet via various phone apps, enabling Pegasus to easily monitor and record their communications.

According to a statement by Elatr’s attorney, Michael Pendell, the “evidence shows that NSO Group played a much more integral part in contributing to Jamal’s death and in causing harm to Hanan than they have ever publicly admitted.”

“We also believe that in seeking to hold NSO Group responsible for their alleged actions, we can help prevent further human rights abuses from being perpetuated,” he added.

NSO has repeatedly denied that its application, which it says it markets to counter-terror agencies, was in any way connected to Elatr or Khashoggi’s death.

American intelligence claimed in 2021 that the hit was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MBS, with some of the squad being members of the prince’s own protective detail.

This was a major factor in souring relations between White House and its major Gulf ally when President Biden took office. MBS denied direct culpability, saying the crime was committed by rogue agents, but did say in a 2019 interview that he was in general responsible “as a leader in Saudi Arabia.”

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A civil lawsuit against MBS for the murder was filed in Washington in October 2020 by a democracy organization Khashoggi founded, called DAWN, and a Turkish fiancé of his, Hatice Cengiz.

According to Islam, men are allowed to have more than one wife.